Prior to the Fellowship, I was the Tribal Chairman of Standing Rock Tribal Nation. In that leadership role, I was put out front and center. During my term, in 2014, our Tribal Nation hosted the President of the United States. And in 2016, with a youth lead movement, our Tribal Nation opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline. These two events put me in the public’s eye. I am thankful for that experience, but I now realize that I do not want to lead in front, I would much rather lead from behind the scenes.
This past year has been crazy with the politics, pandemic, and uprisings. When I applied for the Bush Fellowship, it was during the old norm. The thought process for me at that time was to develop my leadership through exploring new relationships, networking, and traveling. As things started to shift to the new norms, I was not sure how to proceed with the Fellowship and I was forced to adjust. I am very thankful for the flexibility that the Fellowship offers. I am also thankful for my leadership coach who offers guidance and encouragement.
Over the past 20 plus years, I have been interested in sustainable systems. Though out that time, I have explored innovative housing, renewable energy, and local food systems. Understanding that these are not unique ideas or concepts, I wanted to focus my leadership development on those three areas and explore ways to bring these systems in my community.
During this past year, I realized that I was not going to travel. Zoom meetings began to consume my life and I started to shift my plan from going out to staying home, narrowing down my focus to regenerative agriculture. Bringing back soil health and taking care of land. Regenerative agriculture revitalizes dead crop land by introducing cover crops and animals to it, nurturing microorganism life. Land regeneration goes hand in hand with social regeneration.
A lot of the crop lands or monoculture lands have been abused for over one hundred years by traditional farming practices which include turning over the soil and spraying it with chemicals. Basically, killing all microorganisms and creating a hard concrete like surface. Currently, I am only working a small piece of land and my hope is to demonstrate better soil health results in more profitability for farmers and ranchers and potentially contributing to a movement in the ag industry.
There is something therapeutic about working with land. The regenerative process requires a lot of preparation, a lot of fencing, building water systems, and managing cattle and chickens. Just being outside and disconnecting allowed me to recover from my past leadership experiences. Reconnecting with land is something everyone should do.